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Kevin Ha started juggling side hustles two years out of law school as a quick way to pay off his student loans.

He first tried pet-sitting since he already had a dog. Then he began to deliver food on his bike rides home from work. Eventually, Ha quit his job as a Twin Cities attorney and turned blogging and his gig work into a full-time venture.

"It's just about giving yourself options instead of relying on just one single thing," Ha said. "Kind of diversifying in case something happens."

For Ha, what started as supplemental income grew to become his main livelihood. But the beauty of bringing in extra cash on the side is the flexibility to make it into anything from a passion project to a new career.

Kevin Ha rides his cargo bike towards a Burger King to pick-up a delivery food order near the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
Kevin Ha rides his cargo bike towards a Burger King to pick-up a delivery food order near the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

Alex Kormann, Star Tribune

The growth of gig-worker platforms and mobile apps throughout the last few years made it easy for many people to try side hustles or part-time jobs to earn more money. As prices of household items and groceries dramatically increased recently, side hustles have become even more crucial for everyday Americans who might need a little more cash to get by.

According to a December survey by financial services marketplace LendingTree, 44% of Americans had a side hustle, a jump of 13% from 2020. More than 40% said they needed their side hustle to help pay their primary bills. Americans earn about $473 a month from their side hustles on average.

"Life is really expensive today, and many people need that extra side-hustle income to make ends meet or to provide themselves with a little bit of financial wiggle room," said LendingTree chief credit analyst Matt Schulz. "Yes, many Americans have started side hustles to follow dreams and chase big goals, but for others, they're doing it because they need to."

Short and steady scheduling

A side hustle doesn't have to be something that takes up a lot of time or makes a lot of money in one sitting. Even doing something for 30 minutes to an hour a day can be worth it.

Since 2016, 36-year-old Ha has made more than $147,000 from his side jobs. Some of Ha's main gigs are food delivery via DoorDash, Uber Eats and Grubhub as well as dog boarding and walking through the Rover mobile app. All are jobs that can take less than an hour out of his day. He also makes money in more unusual ways, like filling out surveys and secret shopping.

"You don't have to make a ton," Ha said. "It adds up over the course of a month. You don't have to think about it in terms of huge chunks of time. Consistency and time make a big difference."

In October, Ha made more than $1,100 from his side hustles. It helped supplement the money he makes on his financial blog.

Find something interesting

Side-hustle hopefuls should find opportunities that fit what already interests them. Hopefully, that will make the work more fulfilling. The idea of doing a side hustle using his legal skills didn't appeal to Ha. But he liked to explore the city on his bike, so food delivery made sense, he said.

Richard Moody, 66, has worked as a flight attendant for more than 40 years, but when he is not traveling the world, Moody plans events, helps with promotional marketing and produces local fashion shows, an interest of his since he started modeling when he was young.

"I think if people are going to hustle they should probably [look for] what makes sense in terms of who they are as a person," Moody said.

Work with what's around

Using items, personal attributes and skills one already possesses can help a side hustler greatly cut down on costs and time.

Years ago, Adam Lindquist shaved his goatee and made a shocking discovery.

"I was like, 'Son of a gun. I look like Theodore Roosevelt!'" he said.

Lindquist had a hat made and then started to book assemblies at local schools dressed as the former president, offering detailed history lessons of Roosevelt's life. Throughout the years, Lindquist has perfected his Roosevelt re-enactments, which he performs across the country at libraries, schools, parks and government events.

One of the other side hustles Lindquist, 60, developed is renting out his camping equipment and teaching others how to spend time outdoors. Lindquist and his wife also run a small vineyard at their Lonsdale, Minn., home.

Search for seasonal situations

There are plenty of temporary, seasonal jobs that would make great side hustles, said Lindquist, who retired last year after several director roles at various local organizations.

He works at a winery during the bottling period, which usually equals just three to four days of work. Another seasonal job could be plant deliveries, Lindquist said. Retailers also look for temporary hires during busy shopping periods like the holidays.

Run it like a business

Side hustlers need to remember to be professional, polite and punctual, Moody said. If doing a nontraditional side gig, make sure to ask the client about the budget and payment timing. It also makes sense to request a contract.

"Don't look it as a side gig," Moody said. "Look at it as another opportunity that's paying some bills."

Take stock of each side hustle's earnings in order to drop less-profitable ones. Make sure to save some money to pay toward taxes later, Ha said. Ha uses a banking mobile app that automatically puts a third of what he makes into a separate account.

Explore and learn

If a side hustle doesn't immediately come to mind, don't be afraid to temporarily try tasks to find a good fit.

It took Sachoua Vang, founder of Ninja Sushi, a couple of dabbles in different side businesses before he found his niche. Vang, who spent his life working as a car mechanic, first started working part time as a personal trainer. Next, he worked as a server, cook and events coordinator at a sushi restaurant.

After taking some business courses and selling food out of his backyard, Vang, now 30, started his Ninja Sushi food truck. Now he has a space at Maplewood Mall.

"You just have to go out there and test the waters. ... It's as simple as just asking people," Vang said. "There are always people that, A, are willing to help, and, B, there are always people that need help."